Following the preseason exploits of many involved with the first team over the summer, and indeed the individual achievements of many in the EDS and u18s last year, it was always likely that a few of our most promising players would seek first team football on laon this year. And so it proved, with Angelino, Enas Unal, Olivier Ntcham, Seko Fofana, James Horsfield, Shay Facey, Jason Denayer and Jack Byrne all leaving the club temporarily to further their development. In what will hopefully be a regular monthly series, this is the first attempt at tracking their progress at their new clubs. Naturally, i've not been able to watch all their appearances, but i've followed their progress the best I can. At the end of their respective loans there will be more in-depth pieces, with hopefully some insight from fans of the clubs involved, which I tend to find offers a more realistic view of their performances compared to what little you can dig up on various forms of social media or highlight reels. For now though, here's September's edition.
Olivier Ntcham - Genoa
After signing a huge five year contract in the summer, Ntcham departed the club in an interesting set of circumstances. A two year loan to Genoa, with a purchase option at the end of the spell. Odd on the surface, but it makes sense. Firstly, twenty-four months is substantial and Genoa can really commit to the player. He's there for two seasons, and it feels like he can fully integrate into their squad without the looming presence of departure on the horizon. It adds incentives for both the club and the player to settle down and push forward together. The purchase option is neither here or there, seeing as City have a marginally higher buy-back option they can activate if they need too. If we had to make a 2 or 3 million loss to buy back him then would it really be a big deal after Genoa had turned a player into a potential star for us over two years? Of course it wouldn't. In fact most clubs would bite your hands off if the could guarantee a hugely beneficial loan for the rather measly sum of a few million. It's a drop in the ocean at City, let's be honest. It's something i'd expect to see more of over the coming years.
Encouragingly, he's taken to life in Italy exceptionally on the field. One of Genoa's shining lights so far. Situated in a whole variety of positions, left-wing, centre mid and even as false 9 he's impressed with his bullish, direct and powerful displays. It's not really surprising, because that ability was always hinted at, yet at the same time it is. Ntcham lurched from the ridiculous to the sublime frequently for the EDS. One minute a behemoth, powering through midfield and striking one in from twenty-five yards, the next Joey Barton's slightly confused brother. But bigger. Consistency was his problem, never his ability. There was promising signs in the post season friendly for the first team v Toronto. There was an immediate arrogance when he entered the field of play, driving forward with a brashness you don't usually associate with kids making their debut. He seems to have carried this into professional football. Genoa are renowned for giving youth a chance, and the signs are good. He'll be a regular, and the sky really is the limit. Genoa are a good team, and he's appeared six times for them already, in a tough league. This has been a good month for the young French midfielder, and (clearly over the top) Pogba comparisons have been made already. If he continues this form up for the rest of the year then we could witness something special when he eventually returns.
James Horsfield - Doncaster Rovers
Only recently announced, the right-back/midfielder moved to Doncaster Rovers this week for a month. It came out of nowhere, but it's not a bad move at all. Horsfield is a good, competent footballer - one that will surely build a career for himself in professional football. Personally i'm of the opinion that amongst the huge number of supreme talents we have at the club, he's a lot further down the list for a chance. The barriers to entry at City are vast, and it takes something special these days to even get a place on the bench. He may have just missed the boat at City, there's no shame in that, but sending him out on loan for experience before any decision is taken, presumably at the end of the season, is a good decision. He immediately was thrown in at the deep end at his new club, handed his professional football debut as Doncaster drew 2-2 with Swindon Town. He started at right-back, and according to what I could find online, impressed the home fans with his energy and commitment as he shuttled forward with confidence. Fingers crossed it'll be the first of many appearances.
Shay Facey - New York City
He's been at New York City for a while now, and if i'm being honest, he's been mixed, though arguably there hasn't been much he could've done about it. New York City have at times been a relative shambles defensively, and while Facey is clearly a nice footballer - neat, technical with a good turn of pace, he's not developed a huge amount over in the United States. Perhaps he would have suited playing alongside a more assured partner. Someone with the nous and required experience to drill into the youngster the necessary tools of the trade, someone to learn from. As it is, its felt like something of a relative free for all at the back as NYCFC have shipped goal after goal. There has been some good moments, and he's made some nice challenges, but given the current plethora of defensive options the club has at youth level - Adarabioyo, Humphreys, Oliver, Kigbu, Denayer out on loan, not to mention the first team options, maybe we'll see him move on when his loan expires. It would be a shame, as he left the club with a strong reputation having formed a formidable partnership with Denayer at youth level - a regular and valuable member of Vieira's EDS. There's hope still, obviously, but he needs to become a whole lot stronger and more decisive. Experience in a more demanding, organised surrounding will benefit him greatly. Fingers crossed that will come.
Jack Byrne - SC Cambuur
Following decent, successful spells for Rusnak and Bytiqi last year in the Eredivise, City sent the Irish youth international to Cambuur to experience first team football after a hugely promising twelve months for City in the EDS. He was great at times last season under Vieira's tutelage. A decisive, intelligent attacking midfielder, he notably excelled in the UEFA Youth League, grabbing a bagful of goals before City exited in the Quarter-Final stages. First team football was the natural progression. Sadly, it's been a frustrating start so far for the Irish youth international. He was unfortunately the victim of a whole host of niggling injuries that set back his progress. He only recently recovered, yet he was immediately thrust into the limelight, making his debut as Cambuur struggled against Twente. He was relatively innocuous, understandably given the new environment and the injuries. His second game was much more encouraging, impressing in the number ten role as Cambuur were unlucky to go down 3-2 to PSV. He drew plaudits with his aggressive, cultured style, earning another call up for the Irish u21s. If his progress continues I wouldn't be surprised to see him earn a place in the full Irish squad. They're watching him, and rightly so. With a little luck we could have a real player on our hands. City will be watching his development closely.
Jason Denayer - Galatasary
Unsurprisingly, Denayer's taken to life in Turkey like a duck takes to water. Easy. He's a rolls royce of a footballer, one that could excel absolutely anywhere, regardless of the pressure or the circumstances. He made his debut against Atletico Madrid in the champions league situated at centre-back, yet filled in at right-back as Galatasary made changes. A hugely testing scenario, yet he was simply excellent. Cool, composed, measured. Nothing fazed the young Belgian defender, as nothing ever does. Of all the players on the pitch - Koke, Griezmann, Sneijder and so on, he still managed to come away with the highest passing stats, despite playing in unfamiliar positions, on his debut. 68 passes with a 94% pass rate. He showcased some utterly sublime skill too, confidently striding out of defence, building attacks from deep. He's carried on since then with his same, unflinching brilliance. He's mainly started at right-back, and he's taken to it with ease. He could play anywhere given his technical ability, pace and reading of the game and I wouldn't be surprised if Galatasary work out before the season ends that he could star in midfield too. He's grabbed an assist and proven a solid, strong option so far, and this can only be a good thing. He should be at City this year anyway, unquestionably, but he's learning yet another position and, thankfully, improving even further. If City mess this up he'll be first choice for Bayern or Barcelona in two years. He's that good.
Seko Fofana - Bastia
Like Denayer, he was another with experience already. He had a mixed spell at Fulham last year, with the cottagers fans praising his work ethic and general likable approach to the game, but criticising his lack of composure when it really mattered - his touch frequently letting him down in the rough and tumble of the Championship. Nevertheless, he was a solid squad member, and another loan spell this year seemed the logical decision. He moved to Bastia for the duration of the season. Early signs suggest a move to his homeland would seem to suit him. Ligue 1 has traditionally been a solid finishing school for young, talented midfielders, and City will hope for something similar here. Like Ntcham, there's no questioning his latent talent. It's there, in abundance, but it could go either way. Time will answer that question, but the signs so far are positive. Bastia fans and the local press have singled out his maturity as he's been deployed in a deeper role at times, keeping things ticking over. Yet he's still found time to burst forward on occasion, and he's started every game for the club, most recently as Bastia turned over Toulouse 3-0. He'll be a regular in his preferred position, as opposed to out wide where he was often shunted to a to Fulham, and it will surely be beneficially to his long term development.
Enas Unal - Genk
Having only signed in the summer, the young Turkish forward was immediately farmed out on loan to Belgian club Genk. Work permit issues, apparently. Either way, he was handed the number 9 shirt and he'll most likely be something of a regular this year. He's made a handful of appearances so far, yet most were from the bench. He did however manage to score ten minutes into his first start, diverting a header past the keeper during Genk's 5-2 win over Dessel Sport. Still only eighteen, there's plenty of time to establish himself in the Belgian Pro League. Having made his first start and scored his first goal, October should be a much more fruitful month for the striker.
Angelino - New York City
I don't fully know what to make of Angelino's performances so far at NYCFC. While there has been moments of clear excitement, without a doubt, part of me is admittedly hugely underwhelmed by his loan spell. I'll hold my hands up, I was excited about the prospect of seeing him play professional football alongside the likes of Pirlo, Villa and Lampard, but as the season's progressed i've been increasingly uncertain about the benefits of the MLS to his development. He started well - a sprightly, intelligent presence. The Angelino of the EDS. Threatening going forward, and though a little lapse defensively, he was everywhere as he shuttled down the left with his trademark effervescence. It was momentary though. As time's gone by that spark seems to have faded a little, as has that energy. It could be a whole host of circumstances - he's not really had a break since last August. He's played through consistently, and though he does have energy on tap, seemingly, he is only human. He will be tired. There's also the expectation. NYCFC have been, by and large, a disorganised mess. It can affect a player's confidence. As mentioned with Facey earlier, he could have done with playing alongside players of experience, intelligence and defensive leadership. He hasn't.
He's looked poor defensively, and worryingly, a liability. Far from the level required for City at the moment, and he was previously 'decent' at that side of things. It's regressed on that front. Thankfully, the talent is clearly still there. He's looked excellent going forward, grabbing a whole host of assists, linking up well with Villa and Lampard in particular. It's no coincidence that the MLS club have brought him on as a left-winger recently. He remains a left-back, as that's his natural position, but he needs something else for his own development. NYCFC are too primitive at the moment - the club is taking its baby steps and that consistency isn't there and, in hindsight, which is always a wonderful thing, perhaps its not been the best of moves for him. Yes, he's got football, but in a rather odd league. A league where defensive stability isn't really a thing. And that was the thing that he needed more than most. When he returns he needs to move to a league in Europe. That will surely happen too as he is a fantastic prospect. A very good footballer with remarkable technical ability, yet he'll need to be vastly more well-rounded to take the step up to City's level. It is easy forget however that's he's only eighteen still. Incredibly young. He will have learned something from this move, but perhaps not what was intended.